A financing workshop conducted by CHF in Amman, Jordan, has inspired one woman to push for what she believes to be a much needed women-owned small and medium enterprise (SME) association.
After spending three days together at a workshop aimed at teaching women SME owners how to determine their business’ financing needs, identify opportunities to improve business performance, and how to select and apply for loans appropriate to their business’ needs, the participants felt informed and empowered. In addition to training and advice, the workshop allowed the women to network with representatives from CHF’s USAID-funded Jordan Loan Guarantee Facility (JLGF) and its partner banks in Jordan at the end of the session.
So it was a natural step that the 32 women, whose businesses ranged from burger joints to boutiques to media agencies, wanted to take things further. And that is how the idea of creating a women-owned small and medium enterprise (SME) association came about. Hind Al-Fayez, who attended the workshop and owns a media agency, felt inspired after meeting the other women and speaking with workshop facilitators. An outspoken politician who ran for parliament in 2007 and 2010, she stood up in front of the group at the end of the workshop to propose the idea of creating a women-owned SME association. Hind says that female SME owners are underappreciated and don’t get proper support. “How can we speak for ourselves if we don’t have an association or spokesperson?” she challenged the other women business owners. Hind claims that legislators will not take an individual SME owner seriously: “When I meet with them as a representative of an association, they will take us [as a whole] into consideration and we will have weight.”
Al-Fayez says she met a lot of inspiring women during the workshop. One of them was Sima Najjar, owner of three businesses including an online start-up. Najjar explains that though she has been in business for six years, the workshop helped her see the big picture in terms of her finances. “When I produce these accurate numbers, I feel I can actually get a good grasp on my company’s financial situation,” she adds.
Much like Al-Fayez and Najjar, some of the women had already been running their businesses for many years, but had never gotten a good handle on the processes brought up during this workshop. “Jordan has a lot of female entrepreneurs – but they need some leverage, a small push. These women are amazing – they have the will and strength, but they need some guidance,” Al-Fayez emphasizes. The guidance, she thinks, would come from creating an association and working together to make their presence known. Al-Fayez wants to reduce women’s reliance on men for business and finance assistance. She wants to be able to say “Listen ladies, you don’t have to go to your father or husband – come join our association and we can provide you with tools and knowledge. We can help with guides, meetings, and networking opportunities.”
Al-Fayez’s idea was well-received by the other women. Since the end of the workshop, the women have followed through and congregated thanks to advice and assistance from Arun Hsu, Chief of Party of the JLGF. They have begun to have regular meetings in a space provided by CHF, and have retained legal counsel regarding registering their organization. CHF also arranged for them to meet with representatives of USAID to explore how the association might be supported through USAID’s existing programs.
The three-day workshop for women SME owners was held between June 18th and 20th by CHF’s USAID-funded Jordan Loan Guarantee Facility (JLGF), which began operations in February. JLGF was established to provide partial loan guarantees and technical assistance, enabling banks to provide financing to creditworthy but previously underserved SMEs – namely those that create jobs for Jordanian citizens and those owned by women.
JLGF plans to conduct a second round of workshops based on financial management in both Amman and Aqaba later this year, as a majority of the attendees expressed interest in learning more and gave very positive feedback. JLGF will continue to provide support and advice toward the creation of the women SME owner’s association.
In addition to the women-owned SME workshop in Amman, the JLGF has also conducted a similar workshop for 35 participants in Aqaba, Jordan, although this workshop was not limited to women.
Consultant Firas Zaghal, President of Dimensions Consulting, led both of the workshops. Firas’ experience includes working as a senior financial consultant for several USAID programs in the West Bank prior to starting his own consulting firm.
Update: Hind Al-Fayez has won a seat in Jordan's Parliament after the January 2013 elections. Read more about her experience running for Parliament in The National article, "Outspoken Jordanian hopes to lead her fellow Bedouin to prosperity."